cities | October 09, 2013

Build a Better Block: New Speaker Jason Roberts On Improving Your Community

"If someone just stands up and takes an initiative," cities speaker Jason Roberts says in the TEDxOU talk embedded above, "and starts just giving everyone an idea to change their perception of a place it makes a huge difference." Roberts is one of our new speakers and the founder of the Better Block Project. In his talks, he explains that the dreams you have for your community can become a reality—and, that you don't need to wait around for the city to do something you can do yourself. "If you're passionate about something," he says in the talk, "you're probably going to become a leader."

And a leader is exactly what Roberts became for his city in Oak Cliff, Southern Dallas. He started throwing events to bring new life to old, broken-down buildings, promoted the use of bike lines and advocated for more cycling in the city, and organized an event to transform a dilapidated neighborhood into a vibrant community hangout. He's the founder of the Oak Cliff Transit Authority (a group interested in revitalizing a span of original Oak Cliff streetcar rail line), co-founder of the Art Conspiracy and Bike Friendly Oak Cliff, and a recent candidate for US Congress. His projects have inspired similar initiatives internationally, and he now speaks to the power that grassroots community initiatives can have to transform depressed communities into vibrant, lively, community spaces.

Above: Roberts gives a TEDx talk about his Better Block Project. On the screen is an image of him making his own bike lanes to promote cycling in a city where it was nearly non-existent.

Here's a rundown of Roberts' talk on building better cities:

How can we drive change in our communities and move past unproductive committees and outdated regulation? How do we become the “bike part of town” and revitalize stagnant blocks? In this funny, smart, energetic, and breathless talk, arts activist Jason Roberts of the Better Block Project encourages us to stop waiting around. Even if that means painting in our own crosswalks, bringing in our own trees, and blackmailing ourselves into action. To book Jason Roberts as a keynote speaker, contact The Lavin Agency.

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